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Silver Lining: Even With Lottery Revenues Down, Gambling Up Nearly 28 Percent

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BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Playing the lottery pours millions into the state coffers–about $830 million this year alone. But it’s not all good news.

As competition from casinos grows, lottery revenues are actually down.

Pat Warren reports on a drop in ticket sales.

Marylanders willing to gamble on winning are enriching the state with their losses. But as the saying goes, every silver lining has a cloud.

That ticket you bought today may not be worth anything to you tonight, but it’s a win for the state.

An estimated $1.7 billion generated in ticket sales in fiscal 2013 put $500 million into the state’s general fund. But that’s two percent less than last year. Want to bet on the reason?

“I went over to this roulette table here and I just won a thousand dollars!” a gambler said.

Maryland Live! Casino.

“It wasn’t unexpected and we had seen the trend develop over the past couple of months,” said Stephen Martino, Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Commission.

It’s the first downward trend for lottery sales in 16 years. And while the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Commission saw it coming, there wasn’t much they could do to stop it.

“There’s only so many discretionary entertainment dollars people have,” Martino said.

And Maryland Live! siphons them off.

“We know that it’s a challenge when you drop the third largest commercial casino in the United States in between the two most populated metropolitan areas that we have in the state,” said Martino.

Lottery retailers closest to Maryland Live! in particular have seen the greatest erosion in sales. While there are four operating casinos, 75 percent of all the casino revenue in the state comes from Maryland Live!

And that’s before the poker room opens later this month. It’s a challenge for the lottery.

“And, you know, we’re going to work hard to correct it,” Martino said.

Even with fewer dollars coming from the lottery, the total gambling revenue for the state is still up nearly 28 percent.

That’s between both the traditional lottery and the Maryland casinos. Together, they sent $830 million to the state this year. About $284 million went to the state’s education trust fund.

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